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As the managing entity of the Paonia Creative District, the North Fork Valley Creative Coalition is committed to supporting a vibrant arts scene in Paonia. This necessitates developing and maintaining a robust membership base, strategic marketing campaigns, quality public art, impactful signage and wayfinding, authentic signature events, and advocacy at the local, county, and state levels. Community and economic development are the core mission of everything the coalition does. When Colorado Creative Industries announced the Space to Create Colorado initiative, we positioned ourselves to ensure that Paonia had a strong application to submit. 

Space to Create Colorado is the first state driven initiative for affordable housing for creative sector workers in the nation. The mission is to develop affordable housing and work space, including commercial space, for creative industries and artisans and to position Colorado as the nation’s leader in creatively led community transformation in rural communities. We believe Space to Create is a positive project for our community. Supporting creative pursuits results in job creation and is a proven method of diversifying the economy especially where there are job losses in mining and extractive industry sectors. Investment in creative communities make communities more attractive for businesses to locate there. Co-locating creative people together makes everyone more creative and creates a greater sense of community and belonging. Creativity reduces depression, is an alternative to drug and alcohol abuse, and reduces feelings of isolation.

In 2016, the Town of Paonia and the Creative Coalition worked diligently to submit an application to the state. This was a competitive process; the Towns of Carbondale and Crested Butte were the other contestants. In September 2017, the results favored Paonia – we were officially designated the third Space to Create community in Colorado, joining Trinidad and Ridgway. Throughout 2018, we conducted a feasibility study and arts market study. The results of these were presented to the community in early 2019. According to the arts market study, Paonia can support seventeen housing units, ten private studio spaces, shared performing arts and classroom space, as well as community and gallery space.

The Space to Create Paonia executive team identified the town-owned 3.5 acres by the river (formerly the town water treatment area fondly referred to as “twin lakes”) as a potential location for our project. On February 11, 2020, the executive team presented our case to the Town Trustees in an open work session, appealing to the town to allow us to explore the pre-development phase of the project. In the Council meeting, trustees voted in favor of exploring pre-development on this land in a 4 to 2 vote. Before we can go into pre-development, we will be conducting an in depth housing study. Once we have those numbers, we will begin the fact finding mission of pre-development. Stay tuned!